On a good day, travel can be hard. On a bad day, travel can be positively excruciating. While there’s no way to guarantee smooth sailing for everyone on your list, there’s definitely a way to make everyone’s journeys easier. Check out the best in bags, gadgets, food, and more! Wishing you safe travels as you journey into 2023.
These gizmos don’t take up too much valuable suitcase space but can really up one’s travel game.
Enence Voice Translator ($178)
Did you understand what he just said? Me neither. Luckily, this pocket-sized translator aids travelers in two-way conversations in 36 languages. Speak while pressing Button A and it will instantly reply with the phrase translated. Hold Button B while the local speaks and it recites their comments back to you in English. De nada.
Soundcore Life Dot2 Earbuds ($50)
Despite the hype, you don’t need to spend upward of $200 to get decent-sounding, noise-canceling earbuds. These comfy, wireless earpieces promise 100 hours of powerful performance and one-step pairing. Best, they’re waterproof and stay in place during active pursuits.
ATN Smart Binox 4K Binoculars ($899)
Whether on safari, stargazing, or mile-high at a Broncos game, binoculars can make or break the moment. Gazing aficionados are going gaga over ATN’s brilliant color tone HD optics, state-of-the-art night-vision mode, laser rangefinder, and livestream recording feature.
Travel-friendly Roku ($50)
It’s inspiring to watch something thematic when you’re in the moment, like Yellowstone before trekking through Montana, or Bridgerton after wandering the Cotswolds. The finger-size HD/4K/HDR Roku Long-Range Streaming Stick delivers up to 2,500 paid and free channels over hotel Wi-fi to any TV, controlled from a phone app.
Get the most out of every inch of luggage space.
Bagail Packing Cubes($25)
Consistently ranked among the top in this category for its grittiness and grime resistance, Bagail offers the most outstanding selection of packing cubes for organizing a suitcase. Choose the 6-piece set or 8-piece set, which includes a variety of sizes and a laundry bag.
ebags Mother Lode Jr. Travel Backpack ($110)
With oodles of compartments (including enough space for an 18-inch laptop and half a dozen packing cubes), this is essentially a (shhh) second carry-on masquerading as a knapsack. It opens and packs like a suitcase, so finding stuff isn’t a treasure hunt down a rabbit-hole pouch. Best, its lay-flat design fits under most airplane seats.
BagSmart Space Saver Toiletry Bag ($36)
Ditch the eco-unfriendly Ziplocs (already banned in many countries). This ingenious apparatus travels as a compact square, unrolling to a 33-inch hanging toiletry chest with four water-resistant, transparent, zippered compartments, safely storing bottles, jars, tubes, and brushes.
Etekcity Digital Luggage Scale ($11)
Souvenirs, exotic foodstuffs, that irresistible handcrafted sweater … sometimes a suitcase gains weight on vacation. Avoid costly overages at check-in with this packable, handheld scale. It fits into the side pocket of a suitcase, then hooks onto the handle to track weight up to 110 pounds.
Help someone experience the world through their taste buds.
Whatever the travel destination, Tripaneer has a hands-on, destination class for that. This outfit offers more than 450 domestic and international cooking expeditions and food and wine tours spanning single-day to weeklong experiences.
BrüMate’s Travel Wine Tumblers ($25)
Triple insulated with leak-proof lids, these tumblers are perfect for spontaneous celebrations and toasts on the beach, atop a mountain peak, or by a campfire — and spare the corkscrew. They can hold up to half a bottle of your favorite vino.
Universal Yums (from $15)
Want to give someone the chance to try sweet and spicy fish potato chips from Thailand? Or salty licorice from the Netherlands? Send your adventurous nosher a snack box that sates their craving for exotic sweet, salty, and spicy munchies. Representing a different country every month, each includes local lore, trivia, and puzzles.
Murray’s Cheeses of the World Sampler ($79)
Famed for sourcing some of the world’s most exquisite cheese, connoisseurs of raclette, Roquefort, and brie will love the selections on each platter from this beloved NYC-based cheese shop. Prefer to keep them well-stocked? Order a subscription to one of the many cheese-of-the-month clubs.
Thoughtfully’s Hot Sauces Sampler ($45)
Some (okay, many) eaters love that heat, splattering spicy sauce on everything from eggs to ice cream (really!). This 30-bottle Master Hot Sauce Collection features regional flavor zests from around the U.S., spanning the Scoville scale from a tolerable 493 to a scorching 11,300.
Even the best vacations take a toll on the body. These gifts help travelers stay safe and healthy on the go.
Swiss Safe Portable First Aid Kit ($28)
If you can’t dissuade your kids from risky recreational pursuits, at least you can arm them. This knapsack-friendly, 2-in-1 tool box includes 120 FDA-approved medical-grade remedies and safety items (think bandages, antiseptics, ice patch) and includes a separate mini-kit with 32 emergency essentials for on-the-spot treatment.
Deiris Adjustable Water-Filled Dumbbells ($43)
These travel-friendly weights deflate flat to fit in any suitcase or knapsack. When you’re ready to get pumped up, just add water. The set includes eight weights that fill to 5.5 pounds each and extension rods for increasing the load.
Black Diamond Headlamp (from $30)
Sunset hikes, running at dawn, or spelunking — it’s critical to see and be seen. And headlamps are the safest way to do that. Packed in waterproof housing, the light beams a powerful 300+ lumens with six light-stream settings and multiple dimming and strobe options.
Charmking Compression Socks (from $13)
For a long day of hiking, compression socks can help with circulation, stave off fatigue, and show your personality. Charmking’s selection includes supportive calf-length and athletic ankle-height options in trendy colors and patterns.
Renpho Cordless Portable Massager ($40)
After a day of adventure, a massage would sure hit the achy spot. This massager can deliver 3,600 pulses per minute, guided by an extra-long handle for kneading out knots. And each session is customizable, switching easily between a variety of speeds, modes, and interchangeable heads.
If you’re buying for the traveler who has everything, or who has no destination in mind, gift cards are a good option.
CLEAR (6-month $89, 12-month $189)
No doubt airports are terminals of chaos these days. A Clear membership gift card enables folks to bypass it all with the blink of an eye or tap of a fingertip. Pro tip: Upgrading to CLEAR Plus allows members to slip past the crowds entering sporting events and concerts at an ever-expanding list of stadiums.
Naturally, your favorite nomad can use this gift card to book beach houses, ski chalets, and city lofts. But they might instead prefer to purchase Airbnb’s active/adventure and immersive experiences, such as locally led tours, tastings, and outdoor expeditions.
Everyone needs a ride now and then. And Uber’s gift card can also be used, via Uber Eats, for ordering up a nice quiet dinner while staying in. Best, for last-minute gifters, order the card online and it’s delivered to their inbox in mere seconds.
Sampling local cuisine is one of the reasons we travel. But when getting there isn’t an option, have it delivered. Goldbelly represents the fresh and frozen food and merch of hundreds of famed U.S. chefs, restaurants, and purveyors. And we’re talking the good stuff: Wagyu filet mignon, Alaskan crab, and even Babka ice cream sandwiches.
Criterion Channel ($11/month or $100/year)
Foreign film buffs declare this to be one of the most comprehensive streaming libraries for films from around the world. Viewers can opt for subtitles or supplement their language skills by watching in the original dialect.
Newsflash: Not everyone loves Hamilton. Or Springsteen. So if you want to get them tickets to their favorite performer or sporting event (and guarantee they’ll be in town for the date), this gift card will earn you a standing ovation.
This article is featured in the November/December 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
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Stephanie, let’s start off with the cordless portable massager, voice translator, then take it from there.